Employees should insist on a voice in the investment and management of their pension funds, Sen. Lee Metcalf (D-Mont.) said recently, in order to place their money with groups favoring, not opposing, labor interests.
In remarks made on the Senate floor last month, Metcalf noted that the nation's pension funds are controlled by relatively few banks and insurance companies, which often vote against labor interests.
He said 11 of the firms in which the Ford division of the United Auto Workers have major stock investments are among the 16 companies classified by the AFL-CIO Union Label Department as leading anti-union or non-union corporations popular with bank trust department pension accounts.
The UAW-Ford plan investment ranges from $10 million to $62 million in 24 countries, including American Home Products, Atlantic Richfield, Catpillar Tractor, Citicorp, Digital Equipment, Dow Chemical, Eastman Kodak, Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, ITT, Johnson & Johnson, S.S.Kresge (K mart) Eli Lilly, Minnesota Minning and Manufacturing, Monsanto, J.C. Penney, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, Raytheon, Schering Plough, Sears Roebuck & Co., and Xero Corp.
Metcalf charged that pension funds have been used to "export" U.S. jobs overseas by multinationals, to move job opportunities from the industrial states whose workers produced the wealth and to assist notoriously anti-union companies, such as J.P. Stevens. He said three representatives of institutions managing pension money sit on Stevens' board.
"The possibilities for mischief are sunstantial when an institution charged with investing other people's money also lends money to its portfolio companies," he said. "The problem is compounded when the leader-investor also has an interlocking board relationship with the portfolio company."
Metcalf said the potential for conflict of interest in such situations "would seem immense."
The pension fund assets of the Western States Teamsters Union rank along with the UAW's as those which weaid. Many other union funds have retirement holdings valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Among those with portfolios worth more than $200 million are the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Bakery and Confectionary Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Central States Teamsters Union, the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths, and the National Maritime Union.
He cited material from the forthcoming book, "Takeover," by Jermy Rifkin and Randy Barber that such pension investments belong to workers in name only.
"What makes pension funds different from the normal kind of ownership assets, is that the true owners do not and are not allowed to exercise control over that which belongs to them. With collectively bargained funds, over half are controlled exclusively by management and approximately 40 per cent are controlled jointly by management and union representatives.
"In both cases, however, almost all trusteed funds are handed over to a third party, usually a bank, sometimes an insurance company or independent asset manager, to invest on behalf of the beneficiaries," Rifkin and Barber write.
"Thus the real control over the use of fund is not in the hands of the employer, the union that negotiated the fund for the employees, or the individual employees themselves. In the final analysis, then, all three parties lose effective control over these tremendous assets. Their loss is the bankers' gain, and to some lesser extent, theinsurance companies."